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Friday June 14, 2024

Gathering Taliban for parleys not easy: Imran

PM Imran said Pakistan was trying its level best to bring Taliban to the negotiating table and a significant achievement has been made in this regard. He, however, said it was not an easy task.

By Wajid Ali Syed
July 25, 2019

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan has assured members of the US Congress that Pakistan will continue to play its role to help achieve the shared objective of a political solution in Afghanistan.

He said Pakistan was trying its level best to bring Taliban to the negotiating table and a significant achievement has been made in this regard. He, however, said it was not an easy task. He said the entire country including the army and security forces are on the same page for the common objective of peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict.

At a reception hosted by the Congressional Pakistan Caucus on Tuesday, the prime minister maintained that peace in the region was vitally important for the promotion of Pakistan’s development agenda. He said that Pakistan had extended its full support to facilitate direct talks between the US and Taliban, which had made progress. He said Pakistan was in defensive position in this war so how could the demand to ‘do more’ have been made to it. He added that the past governments did not express ground realities to the US.

Hours before concluding his historical trip to the United States, Imran Khan visited the Capitol Hill, and addressed a number of Congress members including Sen Gary Peters, Sen Sherrod Brown and Sen Chris Van Hollen and several members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He was introduced to members of the Caucus including Republican Co-Chair Rep Jim Banks (R-IN) and Democratic Co-Chair Rep Thomas Suozzi (D-NY).

The prime minister also met with the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also joined the event.

Speaking at the reception, Imran Khan thanked the attendees for the warm welcome and said that his government was committed to rebuilding the relationship on the basis of mutual trust and mutual respect.

The prime minister said that Pakistan had facilitated the Afghan peace and reconciliation process as peace and stability in Afghanistan was vital for Pakistan. While cautioning about the complicated nature of the process and possible challenges, he said that Pakistan will continue to extend all possible facilitation in the process.

Extending a warm welcome, Speaker Pelosi said it was a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister of Pakistan to the US Capitol and to discuss the vital ties between “our economies, people & nations.” During the meeting, views were exchanged on matters relating to the Pakistan-US relations and regional developments.

The prime minister told the Speaker that through his visit to the United States, he intended to enhance better understanding and renew and reinvigorate long-standing ties between the two countries. He said that Pakistan would continue to work with the United States for building an enduring partnership and promoting regional stability.

The prime minister also shared his vision of peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia. He stressed that this could be achieved through peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes and building stable and cooperative relationships.

The members of Congress also appreciated Pakistan’s invaluable contribution in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. They appreciated the role of the Pakistani American community in the US. They presented the prime minister copy of the special resolution, which had been introduced in the Congress to welcome the prime minister’s inaugural visit to the US and to reaffirm the continuing support and commitment to the long and enduring friendship between Pakistan and the US.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee thanked the Prime Minister for visiting the Congress and expressed the hope that relations between the two countries could be deepened by enhancing exchanges between the parliamentary representatives of both sides. They were of the view that Prime Minister Khan’s visit to the Capitol will help generate greater interest and foster better understanding of Pakistan in the US Congress.

Agencies add: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said after his visit and interaction with the US leadership, the people of America will have a better understanding about Pakistan. Speaking to the US Congressmen at the Capitol Hill, he said Pakistan had always close ties with the United States and expressed the hope to get back to the relationship, which was based on truth and trust as well as mutual respect.

Imran Khan expressed the hope that from now onward, relationship between the two countries would be at different level. He said unfortunately, he felt that Pakistan was not understood there, specifically in the last 15 years when the war on terror was being fought in Afghanistan and on the border of Pakistan.

More than 70,000 Pakistani people died and our economy suffered billions of dollars loss in the war against terror. The prime minister said over 40 terrorist groups came to Pakistan because of the US war that it fought and its own existence was endangered by it. He said Pakistan was fighting the US war on terror while Pakistan had nothing to do with the 9/11. Al Qaida was in Afghanistan and there were no militant Taliban in Pakistan. He said it was very important that he met President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and explained to them the way forward that the relationship has to be based on mutual trust.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he would meet with the Taliban after returning to his country, as part of efforts to end the 18 years of war in Afghanistan.

He said he had also spoken with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and now, when he goes back, "I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government."

Speaking at the US Institute for Peace, a bipartisan federal body, Khan said he had been contacted by the Islamist extremist Afghan Taliban "a few months back", after his election win in July 2018, but did not take a meeting at that time because Kabul was not in favor of it. The militants reached out to him "because I always maintained there was no military solution" to the war in Afghanistan, he said.

"So because of that, I had a certain amount of credibility amongst them," added Khan. Khan earlier Tuesday met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who emphasised the importance of working together and "Pakistan’s significant role in supporting the Afghan peace process and counterterrorism," according to a US statement.

"It’s not going to be easy because there’s no centralised command, it’s a devolved movement," Khan cautioned about the insurgent group. "But we feel that if we all work together, we feel this is the best chance of there to be peace in Afghanistan."

Khan also stressed that Afghanistan’s presidential election in September "must be an inclusive election where the Taliban also participate". A breakthrough could pave the way for a withdrawal of international troops about 18 years after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, which led the US to launch an offensive that dislodged the Taliban government from Kabul. "Today, there is no concept in Pakistan of ‘strategic depth’ because we feel that by interfering in Afghanistan... we have actually done a lot of damage to our own country," he said.

At the reception, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while addressing the ceremony, said the role of Congress is vital to further fortify the ties between Pakistan and the United States. The prime minister left for home Tuesday evening after the three-day visit to Washington.

Congressmen presented Imran Khan a copy of the special resolution, which had been introduced in the Congress to welcome the prime minister’s inaugural visit to the US and to reaffirm the continuing support and commitment to the long and enduring friendship between Pakistan and the US.